1 “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to slander no one, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing every consideration for all people.3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we did in righteousness, but in accordance with His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,6 whom He richly poured out upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior,7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This statement is trustworthy; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and beneficial for people.”
Remind them to be subject: Paul’s words can be hard to understand and even embrace especially for those who live in democratic nations. His point is not that we ought to blindly follow the governing authorities even if they lead us into error. But rather believers ought to recognize their position with humility and be subject to their implementation of laws. He doesn’t want believers to have a reputation for illegal activities. Christianity is not meant to be a movement built on force and the overthrow of governments. Instead, it is designed to permeate and transcend every circumstance. The Gospel does not call for violent revolutionaries but rather peaceful ambassadors of God’ grace.
All people: Paul encourages Christians to love and respect the inherent value within all people. Christians are not to stir up discontent with people but rather to love and express the fruit of Christ in a hurting world. God has consideration for all people and therefore wants His children to share the same love.
We too once were foolish: Paul wanted this reality to encourage humility and compassion in believers towards others. As ugly as this world is we must remember that we too were once enslaved to the world system. But when we believed we were set free from sin. We can now see the errors of the world system in a way that we could not when we were spiritually dead. Now that believers are no longer enslaved, we can live free from the constraints of sin.
Love for mankind appeared: The love of God appeared in Jesus. The two are one and the same. Jesus is the love of God made flesh. This love of God was expressed perfectly in Christ’s salvific work for salvation. This salvation is not based on our deeds but the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. This is not Paul using regeneration in the same sense as Calvinist theology. For Paul, regeneration occurs at faith in Jesus not prior to it. Faith, therefore, does not arise because of regeneration but precedes it.
Justified: Justification is often viewed as a position for Christians that is somehow disconnected from the fact of regeneration. In other words, we are justified even though we aren’t truly righteous to the core. However, such a concept is missing from Pauline theology. Justification is synonymous with the inner righteousness of regeneration. This is the message that Paul wanted the believers to be adamant about in the midst of their ministry to the world.
Beneficial for people: Paul connects the message of regeneration to engaging in good works. The good works flow out of our new nature. These good deeds impact the world and hopefully win people over to the Gospel.